Here’s another, often overlooked reason why nuclear energy is a bad thing
4 min read
IMAGE: Lukáš Lehotský — Unsplash
Germany’s decision to close its last nuclear plants in April, in contrast to pro-nuclear France, highlights “the other problem” of nuclear energy: not only is it neither renewable nor clean, it’s very dangerous (there have been several hushed up incidents; while a single reactor creates up to 30 tons of high-intensity waste that nobody knows what to do with. And just as importantly, it distorts electricity markets.
Once commissioned, a nuclear power plant cannot be shut down without incurring enormous costs. This results in a contribution to the energy fabric of a country that is virtually constant, predictable and generally considered to be cheap. In reality, the price assigned to nuclear power is a trap, because it ignores the fact that the “payback time” for a nuclear power plant is between 10 and 18 years, depending on the quality of the uranium ores used as fuel. This means that a nuclear power plant must operate for at least a decade before all the energy consumed to build and fuel it has been recovered and the plant starts producing net power. That figure that is reduced to one year for wind power and less than three for solar power.
But beyond the considerations about its danger or its cost, which is already two huge elephants in the room, we have something else: what effect does having huge amounts of guaranteed power have on the energy supply of a country? Quite simply, alternative energy sources that are both genuinely cheaper andrenewable are discouraged.
Germany is no longer dependent on nuclear power, so more investment is going into renewable energy generation and storage, while at the same time it is importing larger amounts of clean energy from its Nordic neighbors.
In contrast, investing in renewables in France, given that its market is steadily supplied by nuclear power, is disincentivized, virtually preventing the development of a generation fabric that provides cheaper, clean and hazard-free energy.
France has one of the lowest per capita emissions rates of all developed countries, but it will soon be forced to maintain its coal-fired plants until 2038, instead of being able to phase them out much earlier (in 2030 as Germany proposes). Why? Because the availability of nuclear…